Weekend MusicWatch: Holiday happenings

Choral Arts Ensemble performs in Portland this weekend.

Choral Arts Ensemble performs in Portland this weekend.

This weekend, Oregon teems with too many holiday concerts to list. Besides those listed below, you can hear seasonal sounds from the Glory Singers in Sherwood, Oregon Chamber Singers in Southeast Portland, Emerald City Jazz Kings in Eugene and the coast, Bach Cantata Vespers in downtown Portland and even the Oregon Mandolin Quartet (playing everything from the Nutcracker to classical Indian music) in Hillsboro.

Messiah,” Portland Baroque Orchestra, Cappella Romana, December 14-17, First Baptist Church, Portland: Handel’s perennial — and perennially mistimed, as it’s really more of an Easter theme — choral orchestral masterpiece tops this weekend’s list of musical attractions, involving as it does Oregon’s finest orchestra and chorus, both specialists in performing this ever-stirring music as closely as possible to the way the composer imagined it. Sunday’s concert is sold out, and Monday’s is a reduced (two hours instead of three) version suitable for listeners of reduced age and/or attention span.

Ethan Sperry leads Oregon Repertory Singers this weekend.

Ethan Sperry leads Oregon Repertory Singers this weekend.

“Glory of Christmas,” Oregon Repertory Singers, Friday & Sunday, First United Methodist Church, Portland: This splendid program’s opening concert last Sunday displayed a smart mix of modern and traditional songs,, quick pacing, and strong performances of music ranging from Renaissance masters Palestrina and Praetorius to contemporary works by the Roches, and Portland-born (Morten Lauridsen) and Portland-based (Bonnie Miksch) composers, including a lovely new “Noel” by ORS accompanist and singer/songwriter Naomi LaViolette — plus carols medieval and modern and even African.

“Ceremony of Carols,”  Choral Arts Ensemble, Saturday and Sunday, First Unitarian Church, Portland: Led by its new music director, David De Lyser, the choir performs a pair of 20th century seasonal masterworks: Francis Poulenc’s “Four Motets for Christmastime” and Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols,” along with contemporary and Renaissance carol settings and more.

Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge, sings Friday.

Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge, sings Friday.

Choir of Jesus College Cambridge, Friday, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Portland: It’ll feel like summer — well, a little — when English organist and conductor Mark Williams, who’s spent most of the past dozen summers in Portland leading the annual William Byrd Festival, returns with his 40-voice choir of young singers for a real old-school (Cambridge was founded in 1496) performance of new and traditional music of the season. Fans of Cantores in Ecclesia and English church music should be there.

“The Most Wonderful Season,” Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, Friday-Sunday, Newmark Theater, Portland: Contemporary choral masters Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre highlight this program of holiday music ranging from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Dolly Parton, plus a ballet, “Love and Marriage.”

A German Renaissance Christmas,” Saturday, Unitarian Universalist Church, and Sunday, First United Methodist Church, Eugene: Accompanied by Byrdsong Renaissance Consort on period instruments (harpsichord, partitive organ, lute, recorders, and strings), choirs from both churches sing secular and sacred sounds from Praetorius, Widmann, and other great composers of pre-Bach German-speaking lands.

“Fiesta Navidad,” Oregon Symphony, Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, Saturday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland: The orchestra joins forces with the popular, award-winning Mexican mariachi band for music from American and Mexican holiday traditions.

“Cirque de Noel,” Eugene Symphony, Cirque de la Symphonie, Sunday, Hult Center, Eugene: the orchestra joins the circus, or actually vice-versa, as Moscow’s band of jugglers, contortionists, acrobats and more  perform a family-friendly program of seasonal sounds.

“The Sema Ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes,” Timucin Cevikoglu, Moa Ensemble, and Semazens, Tiffany Center (Crystal Ballroom), Portland: For a different kind of spiritual experience, the master musician (on the ney flute, various drums and other instruments) and Turkish Ministry of Culture representative joins other traditional Sufi musicians from Turkey in a concert of sacred Turkish classical music and the celebrated Sema Ceremony, in which robed dancers perform a spinning worship. It’s a truly moving spectacle.

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